Monday, January 31, 2011

Merton (born on this day in 1915) on the work of peace compared to the work of war

"If this task of building a peaceful world is the most important task of our time, it is also the most difficult. It will, in fact, require far more discipline, more sacrifice, more planning, more thought, more cooperation and more heroism than war ever demanded."

-Thomas Merton, who was born on this day in 1915
(died Dec. 10, 1968)

Cross-posted on Facebook.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wulfstan of Worcester: Anniversary

Today is the 9th anniversary of my formal reception into the Episcopal Church and the feast of Wulfstan of Worcester, about whom I wrote at some length two years ago.

Bishop Wulfstan's Crypt, Worcester Cathedral, England

Friday, January 7, 2011


Quiz: What Kind of Liberal Are You?

My Liberal Identity

You are a Working Class Warrior, also known as a blue-collar Democrat. You believe that the little guy is getting screwed by conservative greed-mongers and corporate criminals, and you’re not going to take it anymore.

Take the quiz at Political Humor

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The oft-recycled Epiphany sermon (with asides on James Taylor, T.S. Eliot, Sadao Watanabe, and Masao Takanake)

Sadao Watanabe, The Magi's Dream

Bear in mind that I wrote this Epiphany sermon a little over a year after 9/11. It's from eight years ago, Epiphany 2003. I stand by what I said.
Click here to read it.

I looked for artistic representations of Herod, since a good deal of the sermon focuses on him. What I found, for the most part, were representations of the consequences of Herod's actions: the slaughter of the innocents; the Magi returning home by another way; the flight into Egypt of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus.

Later on of course there is another Herod, Herod Antipas, who is the son of Herod the Great, and it is he who is involved in the deaths of both John the Baptizer and Jesus according to the Gospel stories.

The only scenes in which Herod shows up as a visible protagonist are, once in a while, Herod with the Magi, and, more often (at least in Western art), Herod's feast, but that one is Herod the son. The feast is the one at which which Herod Antipas's stepdaughter Salome dances and asks for the beheading of John.

In painted scenes of Jesus' infancy, even with Herod the Great's presence in the stories, artists tends to focus on the Holy Family, the shepherds, the animals, the angels, and the Magi. Makes sense. "But Herod's always out there. / He's got our cards on file," James Taylor's song notes. And... See
the sermon for more.

Of course I also read --or listen to-- the T.S. Eliot poem "Journey of the Magi" every year, but I only cited a line or two of it in that sermon.

The link at the name of the poem will take you to the text of "Journey of the Magi" and to an audio of T.S. Eliot himself reading it. Well worth a listen.

Don't mix "Journey of the Magi" with the sermon though -- very different animals. Read them separately, or just read one or the other.

Note: I never see the work of the Japanese artist Sadao Watanabe (see above) without thinking fondly of Dr. Masao Takanake, who during his time at Harvard introduced me and others to Watanabe's work. Watanabe's art graces the cover of at least one of Takenaka's books, The Bible Through Asian Eyes. A scholar of Christian ethics, Takenaka also wrote God Is Rice: Asian Culture and Christian Faith and other works. He was for many years the President of the Asian Christian Art Association.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Galette des rois

In France, as in so many other places, holidays are excuses to eat specific foods. On Epiphany day or on the Sunday closest to it, people (whether or not they are Christian and whether or not they are observant if they are Christian) eat galette des rois. I will complete this post by tomorrow, the actual feast. Meanwhile, happy drooling. I don't think there is galette des rois here in Greensboro.

New Year resolutions: a meditation on the Feast of the Epiphany

It is Twelfth Night, and tomorrow is the Feast of the Epiphany.

As the Twelve Days of Christmas end, I am re-reading old blog posts and was glad to find this one. In the interest of recycling, and because I still stand by what I wrote (and needed to remember it!) I offer it here, three years later.

See here.

The photo over at that post, is from my trip to Istanbul three years ago. My friend Deirdre Good is there right now and I enjoyed her recent blog report.

Photo above: Chinese Nativity. (Make sure you read the explanatory comment about the two fathers!) As you can see, the wise men are on the left. From a blog I just discovered called World Nativity: Nativities from Third World & Developing Countries.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Contemplation, winter day

This is a country whose center is everywhere
and whose circumference is nowhere.
You do not find it by traveling but by standing still.
Yet it is in this loneliness that the deepest activities begin.
It is here that you discover act without motion,
labor that is profound repose,
vision in obscurity,
and, beyond all desire,
a fulfillment whose limits extend to infinity.

Exhortation, Day, Sunday
Thomas Merton, A Book of Hours, ed. Kathleen Deignan

For the new year

One of my favorite Pete Seeger songs, written by David Mallett:

The Garden Song

Photo: Sugar Creek Township, Greene County, Ohio